Uh-Oh, University Of Carolina Upstate Shut Its Gender Studies Center After It Hosted An LGBT Symposium
Oh no. On Monday, the University of South Carolina Upstate announced the closure of its Center for Women's and Gender Studies in a private meeting with select faculty members, The Charleston City Paper reported. The sudden elimination of the center comes just a few weeks after the university hosted a symposium on gay, lesbian and transgender issues, which isn't a coincidence. The University of South Carolina has yet to release an official statement, but it's suspected the closing has much to do with the 2014 Bodies of Knowledge Symposium, which took place last April.
The one-day academic conference featured presentations on sex, queer theory, homosexuality and body dysphoria, with segment titles such as "How to Be Queer" and "The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays."
Tensions have been mounting between the center's staff, the school administration, and local conservative politicians over the last year. According to one anonymous faculty member, the closing of the center, which has weathered many verbal attacks from opponents, is "an act of retribution." Others told the The Charleston City Paper that the university has become "hostile" and "terrifying."
The presentation anti-gay rights locals took most offense with was a one-woman play titled "How to Be a Lesbian in 10 Days or Less." The satirical play from Leigh Hendrix billed itself as "a hilarious coming out story for queers and non-queers alike" and was intended to offer lighter fare for the academic-heavy symposium. Unfortunately, local legislators decided it was immoral.
"It's just not normal and then you glorify, or it seems to me, that the promotion at USC is a glorification of same sex orientation," Republican state Sen. Mike Fair told local news station WYFF in April. "It's recruiting."
The play was eventually canceled, but the damage was done. The push to cancel the performance came just a few weeks after the House voted to cut $70,000 from the University of South Carolina Upstate and the College of Charleston budgets because of their required reading programs. The program at USC Upstate included Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, a book on South Carolina's first gay radio show, while the College of Charleston featured Alison Bechdel's graphic novel Fun Home.
According to the USC Upstate website, Out Loud was required reading for all first-year students during the 2013-2014 school year. The reading program, called PREFACE, also included book-related events, such as panels on LGBTQ rights in South Carolina.
The College of Charleston has a Gender and Sexuality Center, but there's no word yet whether it'll also be affected by the state's pervasive anti-gay views. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-V.T.) recently gave a speech at the college, telling reporters afterward: "Do I believe that a legislature should take money away form an organization for promoting a book? No, I don't."
Since 1998, the Center for Women's and Gender Studies has been providing young women and men with resources, support services and leadership development opportunities. The center also hosts an array of arts and academic programs throughout the year.
Images: University of South Carolina Upstate